Dry Skin Vs. Dehydrated Skin: What’s The Difference?

You’ve probably heard both terms used before, especially if you’ve had your skin analyzed by a skin care professional. The differences are significant and when it comes to choosing skin care products, it’s important to understand both skin conditions.

What is dry skin?

Dry skin, as a skin type is alipidic skin that is not producing oil (sebum) in the skin. Dry skin will generally have small pores due to lack of oil being produced in the skin, since the follicles are not dilated. Skin relies on oil to hold moisture into the skin and without it, it can appear rough and flaky and wrinkles are pronounced. Dry skin can also lead to a damaged barrier function which results in increased sensitivity and inflamed skin. Inflammation causes a chain or biochemical reactions that lead to collagen and elastin breakdown…

The hormone estrogen also influences dry skin. After menopause, this hormone decreases substantially in the bloodstream. This can affect skin dryness and decrease the production of collagen in the dermis.

How can you treat dry skin?

-Dry skin needs moisturizers containing protectants and emollients to provide a protective layer to prevent moisture loss. Choose moisturizers with Ceramides, Shea Butter, Beeswax, Squalene, Jojoba Oil, Sunflower Seed oil and Cetyl Alcohol. (See our Phytolipid Comfort Cream)

-Use gentle exfoliants (acids and scrubs–try Mint Buffing Beads) to remove surface flakiness and promote cell renewal, as they improve natural production of intercellular lipids for the barrier function.

-Wash with mild cleansing lotions formulated for your skin type and avoid using bar soap or harsh foaming cleansers.

-Use a humidifier in the winter months to keep moisture in the air – and in your skin.

-Never leave the skin bare for more than 60 seconds after washing. Immediately apply alcohol-free toner, serum and moisturizer. (Read: Never Leave Your Skin Bare)

-Use a moisturizing skin serum under moisturizer to provide an additional layer of protection to the skin. (See our collection of serums)

What is dehydrated skin?

Dehydrated skin, as a skin condition, lacks water content, but may still produce oil. It may be biologically inspired (genetic) or environmental. Dehydrated skin, while it can be flaky, generally feels tight and can form fine lines easily due to the surface cells being “deflated,” lacking water that normally makes the surface smoother. If looked closely through a magnifying glass, dehydrated skin has tiny triangular fine lines. Dehydrated skin is common among those with oily and acne-prone skin who use harsh products that strip the skin of water.

How can you treat dehydrated skin?

-Use moisturizers with humectants like Glycerin, Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium PCA, Sorbitol, Allantoin and Propylene Glycol. These are ingredients that help to attract water from the environment into the skin to keep it soft and supple.

-Never leave the skin bare for more than 60 seconds after washing. Immediately apply alcohol-free toner, serum and moisturizer.

-Go easy on exfoliants. Using too many acids and scrubs too often and too aggressively can cause surface dehydration and inflammation.

-Use only sulfate-free cleansing gels as this will prevent unnecessary dehydration when washing.

Knowing the difference between dry skin and dehydrated skin is important and treating it for what it needs is important. It’s like this. Leather is dry and because of it, a leather chair needs to be conditioned with oil to prevent it from drying out. If you apply water to a leather chair, it only gets drier.

Read: How Do Renée Rouleau Products Compare To Other Skin Care Lines?

Read: My Five Best Anti-Aging Tips

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.

For more expert advice check out the blog. Also sign up for our skin tip e-newsletter, follow Renée Rouleau on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on our Facebook page. You’ll be your own skin care expert in no time. Get the #ReneeRouleauGlow!

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  1. Propylene Glycol, really?


    Posted By: Emma  | 

  2. After reading this I realized my skin is dehydrated and wonder if I should be using a serum (like skin drink or Vitamin C & E?) or just need a heavier moisturizer. I’ve been using matte moisture (skin type #3) and have found my skin to be in need of a little more moisture, feels a bit tight after it soaks in. Is there a heavier moisturizer you’d recommend for my skin type or just use a serum? Thanks!

    Posted By: Alex Schroeter  | 

  3. I just used a new face serum in addition to my routine. I can see my fine line is reduced. However, I’m kind of feel tight on my face skin. Is it natural? is the tight skin sensation the results of the serum, or the serum makes my skin dry. I think I’m not sure if the serum makes my face dry or I just read the benefit of tightening my face skin?

    Posted By: Mercy  | 

    • Renée Rouleau

      It’s hard for me to answer without knowing all the details but be sure to use a moisturizer over the serum. Serums don’t have the protective properties like moisturizers do.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 


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